A number of intellectuals and social organisations of India and Bangladesh have condemned the Tripura governments “demolition” of the memorials of the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war in Agartala.
Tripura government officials, however, said that all the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war memorials have been shifted to the Lichubagan park on the outskirts of Agartala, where the Albert Ekka war memorial is being built up.
An official of the Agartala Smart City Project (ASCP) said that the Tripura government had undertaken a Rs 48.3 million project to construct a war memorial at the Lichubagan park to commemorate the 1971 India-Pakistan war, which resulted in the creation of sovereign Bangladesh.
A joint statement of 20 leading Bangladeshi intellectuals said that the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war memorials at the Post Office Chowmuhani in the heart of Agartala are the historic reminiscent of the liberation war and the new generations can learn about the bloody battle after witnessing the commemorative war armours, a battle tank and big guns.
“These memorials are the testimony of the sacrifice of the warriors of India and Bangladesh,” said the statement, which was circulated in Agartala on Tuesday.
Prominent Bangladeshi intellectuals, including Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury, Hasan Azizul Haque, Ramendu Majumder, Selina Hossain, Shahariar Kabir, Asaduzzaman Noor, MP, and noted filmmaker Nasiruddin Yousuff Bacchu have also demanded resetting of the memorials in their old place at Post Office Chowmuhani.
The Tripura Sanskriti Samannay Kendra (TSSK), a CPI-M backed literary-cultural organisation, has also condemned the Tripura government for the “demolition” of the 1971 war memorials.
TSSK general secretary Bibhu Bhattacharjee said that the Post Office Chowmuhani was the central point of the liberation war and almost regularly various performances and cultural events were staged there during the nine-month long battle as a mark of solidarity to the martyrs and soldiers and that’s why the significant war memorials were placed at the popular central point.
The TSSK and various other organisations have also demanded retune of the memorials at the Post Office Chowmuhani.
An official of the ASCP said that the shifting of the war memorials to the Lichubagan park had started in November last year and one more memorial was taken to the new place last week.
He said the Post Office Chowmuhani in the middle of Agartala was a war memorial that housed one battle tank, one artillery gun and other war materials captured from East Pakistan during the 1971 war.
“The army also had a small war memorial at Lichubagan, dedicated to the martyrs of the 1971 war. Lance Naik Albert Ekka was awarded Param Vir Chakra for the battle of Gangasagar (in Bangladesh), which was a part of the 1971 war theatre. He had saved Agartala from getting captured by the Pakistani forces.
“A replica of the existing 40-feet victory pillar at the Post Office Chowmuhani has been constructed at the Lichubagan park,” the official said.
He said that it was a long standing demand of the Indian Army to construct a bigger war memorial by combining both of these war memorials.
The Indian Army and the Tripura Sainik Board had raised this issue with chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb after the BJP-led government came to power in the state in 2018.
The ASCP official said that the war memorial project was taken up under the Smart City Mission.
He said that to ease traffic congestion in the city, the historic tank, the artillery gun and other memorials were shifted to the under-construction war memorial.
“The 1971 war comprised two major operations -- Operation Cactus Lily and Operation Nut Cracker -- and the 57 Mountain Division was actively involved in both operations with fire power support from the 57 Mountain Artillery Brigade,” sai Manas Paul, a defence analyst.
“Both the operations progressed from Agartala westwards towards Dhaka. The war finally culminated on 16 December 1971 with the unconditional surrender of 93,000 Pakistani soldiers. Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora, Maj. Gen. Ian Cardozo, Lt. Arun Khetrapal, and Lance Naik Albert Ekka are a few of our war heroes,” Paul added.
He underscored the valiant sacrifices made by the officers and soldiers of the Indian Army, especially Lance Naik Albert Ekka (of Jharkhand).
Paul said: “The Indian Army, accompanied by the people of the then East Pakistan, fought the war most effectively and decisively to protect the sovereignty of both present day Bangladesh and India.”